The Nationals WA say help must be found quickly for regional patients needing treatment in Perth who are left without flight options as a result of Qantas and Virgin reducing Regular Passenger Transport (RPT) services.
In Parliament today Leader Mia Davies raised concerns that significant cuts to flight schedules are impacting those needing to travel to Perth for specialist healthcare and essential treatment, including chemotherapy.
“Qantas and Virgin Australia have drastically reduced their flights or pulled out altogether because demand for seats has fallen amid travel restrictions,” Ms Davies said.
“We all have to live with the inconveniences of the COVID-19 measures but it is not acceptable for patients to be denied access to treatment that can only be offered in Perth because there’s no transport options available.”
Ms Davies said due to the short notice of the cuts to flight schedules there were people in the middle of treatment, including chemotherapy, who were now unable to attend their regular appointment, or were left stranded in Perth unable to return home.
“We’ve already heard reports of cancer patients being forced to drive 3000km round trips for days to get treatment in Perth and back home again – hardly acceptable for patients whose health is already compromised,” she said.
“In some cases patients are stranded in Perth due to flight cancellations and have to pay additional accommodation costs while they wait for an air link back home.
“Many have also had to cancel long-awaited specialist appointments because they can’t make the trip without flying.
“We want an assurance that while the Federal and State Government hammer out an agreement on the future of Qantas and Virgin services patients are not left without treatment and out of pocket for accommodation.”
She said it was unacceptable for major regional centres like Karratha, Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie, Newman, Broome, Kununurra and Geraldton to be without regular air services.
“Air travel is an essential service for those living in the regions – if it means Federal and State Governments must implement minimum service levels for RPT or share charter flight arrangements with the resources sector then so be it,” she said.
“What we can’t have is patient mobility, the movement of healthcare workers and transport of vital biomedical supplies hindered as a consequence of flight schedule reductions by major carriers.”